Cue up the “Sweet Georgia” Brown as the Harlem Globetrotters will return to Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena on Saturday, February 9 at 2:00 p.m.
Harlem Globetrotters player El Gato Melendez discussed what fans of the touring basketball team can expect this year, and how he got his nickname too, Friday during News 8 at Noon.
“I am the first Puerto Rican in 93 years to be a part of the team,” Melendez said. “So, growing up in Puerto Rico everybody played baseball, but the basketball court that everybody played on was far from my house. So I asked my Dad for a shortcut and he said through the sugar cane fields. One day I go and fix a ham sandwich after school and I’m walking down the trail, and I dropped some of the ham. For some reason there was a bunch of cats there and they started going crazy with that ham. They followed me all of the way to the basketball court. I get there and my friends see the cats, and they’re like – Yo! What’s going on with the cats – and I’m like I don’t know. And then they started calling me El Gato from that point on and it stuck.”
Melendez said being chosen to represent the famed Harlem Globetrotters is a privilege and honor. “The first time I saw the Globetrotters was on ‘Scooby Doo.’ So you always thought these guys are cartoons and then you start learning that they were real and all of the things that they have done, not just for the game of basketball but also as ambassadors of good will. So, once I got that chance, I never say yes to anything that fast as when I got the chance to become a Globetrotter! And now, being a part of the things we do – we visit hospitals. We’re going to visit a hospital later on today here in town. We visit schools. We give a lot of laughter and a lot of memories for people – a lot of positive things, so it cannot get better than that.”
Not everyone has what it takes to become a Globetrotter. “You have to be a good basketball player and also be a good person,” said Melendez. “Then later on is when you start learning all of this fun stuff we do with a basketball that everybody loves, and you can come and check it out here in town!”
The idea behind this year’s “Globetrotters Fan Powered World Tour” is giving the power to control the game to the fans. “Normally we set up the theme and everything — no, no — we’re going to give the chance to people to control the game the way they want it,” Melendez said with a smile. “We’re going to make sure that everybody comes in and has a good time, dictates the way the game is going to go, and it’s going to be a lot more interaction. Before we interacted but now it’s going to be even more, so come and check us out. We’re going to have the acrobatic dunkers, a four point line, all of the tricks. We’re going to have female players as well so it’s going to be amazing.”
For tickets to see the world famous Harlem Globetrotters visit the Blue Cross Arena Box Office, call (800) 745-3000, or visit HarlemGlobetrotters.com. — ROCHESTER FIRST